The Handmaids Tale - Social Situation

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The Handmaids Tale - Social Situation

Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaids Tale belongs to the genre of anti-utopian (dystopian) science fiction where we read about a woman's fictive autobiography of a nightmarish United States at the end of the twentieth century when democratic institutions have been violently overthrown and replaced by the new fundamentalist republic of Gilead. In the novel the majority of the population are suppressed by using a "Bible-based" religion as an excuse for the suppression. How does this work and why can the girls, the so called Handmaids, be considered the victims of society? Also, in what way does Gilead use biblical allusions? That is some of the questions this essay will give answers for.

To begin with the so called Handmaids are girls who have only one purpose in life which is to reproduce. They are women who when have reached the age and maturity to reproduce have been taken to Gilead where they are tattooed with four digits and an eye (Gilead's tattoo which works as a passport in reverse) which immobilises them, in contrast to the winged male eye which is the state symbol. Then they are re-educated at the so called Red-centre, the name emphasises female sexuality and how they are taught there can be linked with brainwashing. They are told how lucky they should feel because they have been saved from the primitive and cruel outside world where women are being raped and maltreated. Other things they learn are numerous sayings and mottos of the Red-centre like "Pen is Envy" which is based on a Freudian psychoanalytic theory which presents "penis envy" as an essential element of femininity, and a mark of "woman's natural inferiority to men". So knowing this, are they actually better of in Gilead? There they are "valued only in terms of their biological usefulness as child bearers" due to that the birth rate in the society has fallen to a catastrophically low level because of deadly pollution and sexually transmitted diseases which cause sterility and infertility. They are known by their Commanders first names, Of -(name of commander), this to underline their function as sexual objects without individuality.

Moreover, apart from being deprived their own names Handmaids are also deprived legal rights.

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